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Thread: Chart Plotting Desk for Cockpit - Ideas?

  1. #1
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    Default Chart Plotting Desk for Cockpit - Ideas?

    I'm thinking about building a portable chart plotting desk/table for the cockpit. Something I could store in the cabin, then place on the bridge deck when sailing. I'm thinking it would have a surface big enough to accommodate a full size chart folded in half, as well as a drawer (or lift top) to hold parallel rulers, triangles, dividers, etc. Maybe even a spot for a hand bearing compass and/or a handheld GPS, though I'm obviously talking primarily about traditional techniques.

    I'd appreciate any thoughts/ideas/suggestions, or photos, of course, if anyone's done something similar. Thanks.

    Ben

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Chart Plotting Desk for Cockpit - Ideas?

    Our boat has a lift-off, stowable chart table that clips up under the deck beams forward when not in use. It's large enough to use with ChartKits and ChartBooks, which we find easier all around versus full size charts. We keep the nav tools in a separate box that slots into the table when in use, not a permanent drawer, so we can take them ashore as one unit for use at home. Your table may have to fold to be usable for a full size chart. https://www.jamestowndistributors.co...t.do?pid=4402#
    "It's a pirate's life for me. Savvy??"

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Chart Plotting Desk for Cockpit - Ideas?

    Think BIG clipboard. I'd give some thought to a way to use charts below. In the cockpit, with the wind blowing and the spray and rain coming down, particularly at night, isn't really the best environment for charts or navigators for that matter.

  4. #4
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    Hyannis, MA, USA
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    Default Re: Chart Plotting Desk for Cockpit - Ideas?

    Here's what you want. MapTech makes a plotting board complete with simple and accurate enough drafting machine that fits their chart kits, which cover a good area. And the charts can be put in a durable plastic sealing case so the inevitable splash won't hurt - rain won't hurt. I use dry-erase markers as I go along so clean-up is easy but the markings won't stay in a downpour.



    The chartboard is, of course under the other essential tools.

  5. #5
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    May 2010
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    Default Re: Chart Plotting Desk for Cockpit - Ideas?

    I used something similar to Ian, except no drafting machine. I took a suitably sized piece of plywood and topped with a same size piece of plexiglass which I held in place with Velcro patches on the edges. I used fine line permanent markers which would stay on in rain, but which wiped off easily with a bit of stove alcohol. I used Velcro to keep the marker handy and secure. I was using LORAN back then, so I kept a list of the appropriate waypoint numbers along the side. It was a very workable setup which I used for many years in the cockpit of a 23' sailboat. When not in use it lived in a canvas pouch stowed below.
    Everything changes . Everything is connected . Pay attention

  6. #6
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    Cushing, Maine
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    Default Re: Chart Plotting Desk for Cockpit - Ideas?

    For the Maine Island Trail skiffs a volunteer made permanently mounted nav desks. They are big enough to take a chart kit otherwise protected chart, and have several shock cord hold downs. We've found however that at speed the shock cord isn't good enough and we carry some plastic spring clips. This could be made portable, a lid on the top of a shallow box. I've not found parallels and dividers of much use in the open. I use tools like the Small Craft Nav-Aid, smart strings and my hands and knuckles to measure distances. The parallel and divider work happens in planning. I've also found that a pair of triangles works better for precision in a small boat environment as I tend to have parallels slip when the boat is moving around. Besides fine line markers which as noted above need alcohol to wipe off the old grease markers, I think they are called china markers work well and can be removed with a rag.
    Ben Fuller
    Ran Tan, Liten Kuhling, Tipsy, Tippy, Josef W., Merry Mouth, Imp, Macavity, Look Far, Flash and a quiver of other 'yaks.
    "Bound fast is boatless man."

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Chart Plotting Desk for Cockpit - Ideas?

    The ChartKit board (if still made) starts it's life with an acetate sheet meant for the dry-erase markers. But it tends to tear and is not meant to keep real water out anyway. And the ChartKit plastic sleaves with a zip-lock type closure take the dry-erase and really protect the charts. If you look closely, the drafting machine arm attached to the board and next to the one covered by the watch has a non-standard screw. And if you look very closely, you'll see just below that a horizontal line - the thing has broken in several places, that being one, and been mended with overlays.

    I like it because you can set the center compass (magnetic or true your call) for the way the chart is oriented and then however you lay the rule, you have a direct read to the course. The lock that holds the compass rose can slip so if you just turn and look frequently, you'll likely get an incorrect read. It's not a refined drafting machine, as you'll see if you use it for any mechanical drawing, but it's good enough for small boat piloting with a margin of error about as thick as the dry-erase markers line, somewhat thicker than any ball point and a bit finer than to about like the Flair pen.

    Before I found this, I made lap-top boards with various ways to hold the chart down against the wind. Rather than parallel rules, I used a section of 1" or maybe a little less dowl or a length from a broom stick handle as those roll with precision to move a line from anywhere on the chart to the rose. The thickness is actually rather a help as you can then move your head and take advantage of the paralax to get a clear view of the rose without a shadow confusing things.

    My father was a brilliant navigator and pilot. There's a tale my godfather, who'd been Dad's copilot in the Africa campaign, told of Gen. Doolittle coming into the cockpit to question Dad's position. Doolittle elaborately took radio and physical bearings, labored over the chart, and when Dad advanced his position from an hour before, they were in acccord. The general never questioned Dad's navigating again. Nor did Dad's navigators during the war. They all knew that if Dad rejected a position, they'd better rework. Dad could snatch an LOP from a fleeting glimpse through the corner of his eye. Dad's "trig brain" could simply gaze about and tick off an X or at least one LOP on the chart. If my careful LOPs from my polaris sights crossed in a different place, I was wise to resight. I never got his nack and to this day I draw the lines, often content with hiding ambiguity by taking only two bearings.

    Anyway, something like the ChartKit board is really hard to beat on any small boat. I even carried mine aboard the tugs as they are easier to read and keep organized than a full sized chart on a table that's not right by the helm. I was never one to rely on the beautiful feats of memory a licensed pilot has for his or her ports and routes.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
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    Default Re: Chart Plotting Desk for Cockpit - Ideas?

    Some good ideas here - thanks. My googling suggests that the plotting board Ian mentions isn't available anymore (http://www.landfallnavigation.com/-n5121.html), but I think I could slap something together along the same lines. I like the plexiglass idea. My vision is to maybe store it below (cabin overhead) and be able to access it down there when conditions are sloppy. I need to investigate chartkits more closely - I usually just use full size charts that have been folded a thousand times and they do get pretty cumbersome. In terms of tools, I'm finding that triangles and/or a Portland Plotter are more useful for me than parallel rulers, but I have an assortment that I'll probably carry.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
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    Brewer, Maine
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    Default Re: Chart Plotting Desk for Cockpit - Ideas?

    Yup, the Chartkit plotting board is out of production. Has anyone seen the plastic drafting machine for sale which came with the board?

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Chart Plotting Desk for Cockpit - Ideas?

    Ben's mention of triangles versus parallel rules and the Small Craft Nav-Aid reminds me of LF Herreshoff's description of his handy nav tools in 'The Compleat Cruiser'. Just for the fun of it, it's worth a read and the Nav-Aid is pretty much a store-bought version of his homemade scale rule: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlA9TpklP80
    "It's a pirate's life for me. Savvy??"

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Chart Plotting Desk for Cockpit - Ideas?

    iPad.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Chart Plotting Desk for Cockpit - Ideas?

    Here's one currently on ebay, though a little pricey ...

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Por...19.m1438.l2649

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